By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming will probably never entertain the idea of stopping all low-level traffic stops by law enforcement officers, according to the leader of a group that represents the state’s sheriffs and chiefs of police.
Philadelphia recently enacted an ordinance banning low-level traffic stops in the city, but Byron Oedekoven, a former Campbell County sheriff and executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chief of police, said he does not expect such a development in Wyoming.
Oedekoven told Cowboy State Daily that most low-level traffic stops are related to safety issues, such as letting drivers know they have a headlight or brake light out.
Oedekoven said he could see such legislation popping up in cities where the concept of defunding the police has been popular.
Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Driving Equity Act, making Philadelphia the first major city in the U.S. to ban low-level traffic stops. The law, which also requires city police to gather and publicly release data on traffic stops, goes into effect early next year, according to NPR.
The outlet also reported that the new legislation bans stops for:
- Driving with a single broken brake light
- Driving with a single headlight
- Having a registration plate that’s not clearly displayed, fastened, or visible
- Driving without an inspection or emissions sticker
- Bumper issues
- Minor obstructions (like something hanging from a rearview mirror)
- Driving without vehicle registration within 60 days of the observed infraction
Although low-level offenses will no longer lead to interactions between police and drivers, infractions such as this will still result in a ticket that is either left on the driver’s windshield or mailed. The Philadelphia Police Department helped write the legislation and supported the ban.
NPR also reported that numerous studies show that Black drivers get pulled over for low-level infractions more often than other drivers in the United States and that civil rights groups often decry such stops as cover for racial profiling or fishing for more serious crimes.
Oedekoven noted that many years ago, vehicle inspection stations were common, providing a place where people could have their car’s headlights, brake lights and windshield wipers checked and have other minor maintenance completed.
“Then, everybody declared that they didn’t want to burden garages with this because people didn’t want to pay for maintenance,” he said. “So everybody was on the honor system to have a safe vehicle. So these low-level stops are just officers saying, ‘Hey, did you know your headlight’s out?'”
He also noted that many low-level traffic stops in Wyoming, especially along Interstate 80, can lead officers to uncover more significant crimes. As an example, he pointed to incidents when someone pulled over for speeding or having a broken brake light might be found to be transporting drugs.
“That guy you pulled over for speeding that’s driving the ‘loaner car’ and doesn’t know what’s in the trunk is actually hauling $1 million worth of fentanyl,” he said.